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House Passes Bill That Beefs Up Resources for Border Prosecutors

The Texas House on Thursday passed legislation that would codify the current policies and duties of the state’s Border Prosecution Unit.

Texas Department of Public Safety officers patrol Anzalduas Park as part of Operation Strong Safety. Texas National Guard soldiers deployed to the area on Monday will help DPS in its mission, officials said.

The Texas House on Thursday passed out the final piece of a three-part package on border security, which Gov. Greg Abbott has declared a legislative priority. 

House Bill 12, by state Rep. Oscar Longoria, D-Mission, codifies the current policies and duties of the state’s Border Prosecution Unit. The unit was formed in 2010 following an annual $2 million appropriation to help border prosecutors handle increased caseloads. It is made up of 17 jurisdictions that include the counties on the state's border with Mexico and their surrounding areas.

The bill would fund the unit through grants from the governor’s office that pay for special prosecutors assigned to handle border-specific crimes — mainly smuggling, violent crimes, money laundering and gang activity associated with cartels. The prosecutors and staff would team up with the Texas Department of Public Safety and local law enforcement agencies. The bill’s fiscal note states that about $1.5 million would be allotted to the unit each year.

HB 12 was announced at the same time that House Bill 10 by state Rep. Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston, and House Bill 11 by state Rep. Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton, were presented to House members as part of a broad border security package. Thompson’s measure increases the penalties for human trafficking, and Bonnen’s bill is a broad border security measure that would beef up the DPS presence on the border.

The three bills await action in the Texas Senate.

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